Plenty of elementary schools have special spaces where young students can lose themselves in a good book.
Few can likely say their special place includes a permanent putt-putt hole.
Wakelon Elementary got one of each on Aug. 22 thanks to a project led by volunteers from Zebulon Baptist Church, who were participating in their annual Grace in Action service day.
What was once untapped space under the staircase in the school lobby now consists of a bench facing a running fountain, surrounded by living plants and situated on a green, artificial turf base. A mural painted along the wall by art teacher Sara Farrey completes a scene more likely to be found at a public park than inside a public school.
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It’s a place where students can get away without going anywhere. But there ended up being more than room for just the peaceful nook under the stairs.
“The putt-putt thing didn’t come out until last weekend when we were building it,” said Wakelon Principal Tad Sherman. “As we were working on Saturday, we had already laid the turf and we had all this extra, open space. We started laying pavers along the edge and I started thinking, man, this looks kind of like a putt-putt hole, so we just did it.”
The new addition does not mean students will be playing putt-putt all day long, or whenever they please, either. The school is tying both the miniature golf fixture and the reading nook into its Positive Behavior and Intervention Support program.
Give a (Bull)dog a bone
At Wakelon, where the mascot is a Bulldog, students can earn “bones” by demonstrating positive behavior and can then turn the bones in for various rewards. There’s a scale: fewer bones are worth simple rewards, like a phone call to parents bragging on the student or free books from a book bin; a lot of bones can be worth greater things, like a basketball game against the principal.
Any staff member can award bones as they see fit for good behavior, and any Bulldog who gets 100 bones over the course of the year gets to add their painted handprint to a hall of fame.
Located in an area that receives the heaviest foot traffic, the school’s newest incentives for being good are no secrets to the students.
“Just in the first two days of school it’s created a lot of buzz,” Sherman said. “The students love the appearance of it, but now they’re starting to ask questions. So we’re announcing these things are being added to the prize matrix, and that’s creating a lot of excitement.”
Sherman has no issue with using rewards to induce good behavior, so long as it produces results.
“I think sometimes there are some folks who think, well, (being good) is just the expectation so why are we rewarding them for it,” Sherman said. “But we feel like if we can engage them in something they have a high interest in, they’re going to feel more prone to do what is expected, so we feel comfortable promoting that atmosphere.”
More where that came from
Zebulon Baptist volunteers also spruced up the exterior of the school during their visit, but their work at Wakelon was just a fraction of what the church did in the area on its day of service.
Crews tackled landscaping projects at Carver and Wendell elementary schools and at East Wake Academy.
Free hotdog lunches and oil changes were offered at the church, and its members ministered to the community in a variety of other ways. Some collected items to help stock clothes closets at local schools. Others visited a local laundromat and offered to take care of customers’ laundry costs, whether they needed a helping hand or not.
Pastor Jack Glasgow said more than 100 of the church’s members participated in the Grace in Action operation.
“It was a really good day,” Glasgow said. “The way we try to make this missions day work is to keep it very simple. We think of simple acts of service and simple acts of kindness we can do in Jesus’ name.”